In 1939, George Danzig enrolled as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkley. He was studying statistics under the professor Jerzy Neyman. At the beginning of one of the class sessions, the professor put two problems on the board. They were famously unsolvable statistic problems from the world of math.
George got to class late that day and missed the first ten minutes of the “impossible” lecture. He mistakenly thought the problems were homework assignments. He transcribed them into his notebook and took them home. It took him six agonizing weeks to solve both problems. He dropped them off at the professor’s office.
On a Sunday morning, six weeks later, Dr. Neyman knocked on George’s front door to share the news. A bewildered George apologized to his professor thinking that he was in trouble for turning the assignment in late. He was informed instead that after checking and rechecking his answers he has solved tow of statistics unsolvable problems.
George went on to finish his Masters and then his Doctorate. He went to work for the defense department in 1946. In 1966, he joined Stanford University as the professor of operations research and computer science. His thinking and work have shaped the way airlines schedule their fleets, shipping companies deploy their trucks, oil companies run their refineries, and business mangers manage and form their revenue projections. His legacy can be traced back to that one pivotal moment as a statistics student. “If someone had told me they were two famous unsolved problems, I probably would not have even tried.”1
Assumptions. How many things in our life would be different if we just stopped making assumptions? Assumptions are literally our imaginations’ expectations of what we believe will happen... or can’t happen. We base them on what we know and project them on to what we don't know. We draw conclusions in our own minds that seem irrefutable.
There is only one problem with assumptions. Human assumptions are not always real... But with God…
We live in a universe that is in the control of the most unpredictable, powerful, creative force ever. In Mark 10:27 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
It’s a great verse. Jesus is talking here about the salvation of men. The disciples thought the rich were automatically in with God – weren’t they already blessed. Jesus told that the rich didn’t have it easy... the disciples had assumed something. And yet God doesn’t follow our assumptions.
What if… (Two of the most powerful words in the English language) What if we laid aside our assumptions and began to live as if all things are possible? I wonder what would be different…
In our relationships…
What if we could be forgiven
What if they would take the phone call
What if they do want to reconcile
What if they would change
What if they want to too…
For our future…
What if we aren’t stuck where we are
What if our debt could be gone (the church’s too)
What if there is a great job out there just a little farther on
What if heaven were for real and your room already had your name on the door…
With our friends…
What if they don’t really have it all together
What if they are curious about God
What if they would come to church
What if they really just need to hear one more time…
What if He really is knowable
What if His way for us is really better for us
What if His silence isn’t disapproval
What if He is really listening
What if He can really do it all…
What if we aren’t really stuck in this sin
What if one more time (try) really is the trick
What if faithfulness really does bring ultimate happiness
I have to believe that with God in the picture anything is possible.
So here’s looking forward to a year that can be better than last year, with more lives changed, and more people reached and with a God in charge who can do what others assume is impossible.
1 Adapted from Mark Batterson’s book, “The Grave Robber” © 2014